Dolph Ziggler

So today I started working on my first gimmick profile. This one was a request in the comments, and it seemed too perfect to pass up: Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler is a great character to start working on because there’s a ton of his work out there to explore and because he’s had a run as both a heel and a face in WWE. Starting out with such a solid gimmick, however, has also helped to reveal the issues with my project. So I’m still adjusting.

What I learned from watching a lot (A. LOT.) of matches and promo videos today is that a list is basically useless for this project. This isn’t about facts or details within the company. It’s not really about championships or feuds. All of those things have been put upon a person by WWE. What we’re really talking about is the intersection between the abilities of the performer and the versatility of the character.

I really am glad I started with Dolph Ziggler. I got to watch a lot of great matches (eventually stopped at this year’s Payback match against Sheamus. Too much blood makes me pass out!) and was even reminded that he is not a bad promo. He is definitely entertaining.

The Show-Off character is perfect as a heel. He thinks he’s the best and basically behaves like a cocky prick. He is someone who takes advantage of people, of his relationships, to get what he wants. This opportunistic tendency has actually bled into the babyface version of Dolph Ziggler. You can see it in his matches – he still lies in wait and will sneak a move on an opponent, though he’s not actually breaking any rules at the time. As a babyface, that characteristic plays out more as foresight than conniving. Dolph Ziggler is a fun character to watch, whether he wins or loses. He appears natural in a leader role and can rally troops. He also is interesting to have on a team that he’s not leading, as he’s basically destined to break out as a star in the match.

As a performer, Nick Nemeth is very talented. He really understands timing and how to read a crowd. When you watch him interact with a live audience, you can tell there is a give and take. However, when Nemeth gives backstage interviews they can end up as runaway trains because he has no one’s reaction to read. Nemeth requires some kind of response to gauge where to take his unscripted dialogue next. His in-ring work is compelling to watch and usually paced well. He appears to be in control, even when he does not have the upper hand or is going over in a match. His ability to read and respond to audiences is apparent in his matches, just as it is in his promos. He’s also willing to do fun things to make people laugh, whether it is intentionally as a babyface or “unintentionally” as a heel.

Nemeth’s ability to portray a heel or babyface within the same character makes him extremely valuable. The Ziggler character becomes malleable in terms of the company’s greater storytelling needs. From the perspective of the Ziggler character, it is best to move him fluidly from heel to face and back again. This shouldn’t be done constantly, but as the company’s need for more heels or more faces ebbs and flows, Ziggler’s storyline should reflect that need.

As an individual who has such an easy and believable connection with the audience, why not use Ziggler as a stand-in for WWE itself? When the WWE audience is giving the company what it needs to propel its storylines forward, Ziggler is a babyface. When the audience is at odds with the storyline, Ziggler turns heel. Through very tight writing, these adjustments can be made subtly, especially with the fluidity of the character. When the audience is ready to have someone to cheer, Ziggler can be there for them to cheer on. And when the audience wants to boo, a solid and vicious turn could provide them with an outlet.

At the end of my analysis, I’m going to give ratings. These are based on the following criteria: character versatility, performer talent, how often the character should be involved in major storylines, and whether or not the character could bring something to a title.

Ziggler is an obvious A. The character is versatile, the performer is talented, the character could be used in major stories and, (depending on the depth of the storytelling) could certainly bring something to any of the current title pictures.

What the Ziggler character really shows us is the need for WWE to create one cohesive story image for the company. For example, a complaint (or sometimes just a note) I hear often – and have even made myself – is that The Authority seems to be entirely focused on the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. They occasionally become involved in the Diva’s division, but rarely in title pictures like the United States championship or the Tag Team championships. This creates not only the sense that these things are not important, it also creates the impression that these things don’t exist in the same universe. That’s a problem, a very big and totally fixable problem.

I’m not suggesting that The Authority become further involved in the storylines we see on TV. I’ll talk more about my feelings on The Authority when I do analysis for Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. What I am suggesting is that if there is a larger plan at work that keeps all of the titles seemingly connected and in the same universe, WWE should be able to smoothly move gimmicks from feud to feud, or in and out of storylines as necessary. A character like Dolph Ziggler is the queen in the chess game of WWE storylines, with more possible moves than anyone else as he navigates in and out of other people’s plots.

Knowing there is already such a useful character and performer in the ranks, maybe we should move on to some more stagnant characters, who provide a solid framework within which characters like Ziggler can stir up some excitement. Don’t forget to leave your suggestions for gimmicks to chart in the comments!

The Lady J Says

 

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A Few Rules

If you’re going to do something, you’d better do it right. If I’m going to create character charts for every gimmick in WWE, maybe we should define what a character chart is first, and what sort of information I’m going to be looking at.

Character charts are a device writers use to fully mold a character before trying to insert said character into the plot of their story. My first introduction to such a device was actually in training for theatre, as ensemble members of productions were instructed to create character charts so their dialogue-less interactions on stage followed a through-line. Character charts themselves can be nearly novel-length, as they literally include every conceivable piece of information about a character. Obviously, I’m not going to bore you with every known details about a performer, but I’m going to try to include the things that would be important to know when trying to book them.

The most important thing I have to consider is whether or not to work inside kayfabe. (If you’re a loyal reader – and thank you – you already know how I feel about kayfabe.) As the gimmick’s exist inside kayfabe, I’m going to have to work mostly along those lines, but I am going to include information about the physical strengths/weaknesses of a gimmick – which means that actual athletes themselves.

Knowing that, here is the list I’m working with now. Some of them don’t require explanation:

1. Name
2. Status (injured, off-TV, active, etc.)
3. Title history (NOT counting current championships)
4. Current Face/Heel status
5. Team/faction (if applicable)
6. In-ring style
7. Current affiliations – these are legitimate alliances, and not just tag team partners that have been forced on them
8. Past affiliations – other gimmicks they may have legitimate beef with
9. Promo ability – a performance-based analysis of promo work
10. Weaknesses – what is currently holding them back (not counting external obstacles, like bad writing)
11. Strengths – what makes this character someone that people want to watch

It’s going to be hard not to consider current storylines as I begin to dig into each character. But what we’re really looking for here is how the character is on their own, how the character reacts to the individuals around them, and what about that character is appealing to an audience. Knowing those things means we know utilize the character to create the most compelling storylines.

We can’t, of course, compensate for what we don’t know – when someone is going to get injured, when someone might be working on something new to add to their repertoire, or when something might happen outside the world of WWE that directly affects the appropriateness of a storyline. But (for now) these are my basic parameters.

What do YOU think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts on my list, or even a suggestion for who you’d like to see charted first.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

The Lady J Says

Lady J’s Compendium of Knowledge

I spent all day on Tuesday trying to come up with a decent blog post, but decided you were all better off with nothing at all than with the garbage that was coming to my mind. It’s Wednesday now and almost time for my favorite holiday: Foodsgiving. It is a family tradition to: watch the parade on TV, spend an hour praying that my broccoli souffle won’t collapse in the oven, place dollar bets on all the football games, and sneak into the fridge for an extra slice of pumpkin pie around midnight. Knowing that all of these things are in my future, I’m trying to let that good mood take over. I’m even playing Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” at work.

Monday was a weird day for me. I woke up feeling just as happy as I had when I went to bed after Survivor Series. I went off to run a few errands and was promptly broad-sided by someone in an SUV. But no matter – I wasn’t hurt and my car wasn’t too badly damaged, so I returned quickly to my good mood. I got home and found The Dog had snuck into the last of my Nilla Wafers, but he’s too cute to admonish so I still floated through my good mood. I listened to some podcasts and read articles of people who were going to boycott RAW that night (what did ya’ll watch instead? Football? *sobs into Bills jersey*) But still, my good mood would not quit!

For any of you who were following along with me during RAW on Monday night, you know what happened: J had too much Chianti and ended yelling at the TV. And not in a good “I’m so involved in this” way. I was so incredibly disappointed in every single thing that happened during that three hour program (arguably the only thing that didn’t bother me was the promo involving Stardust and Titus O’Neill.) I could fill up volumes with the kind of rant I wanted to go on at about 11:10pm. But I didn’t. I did laundry. I watched a movie. I went to bed.

Now, two days later, almost 48 hours removed, I am not angry anymore. I’m just disappointed. And now I’m even more angry about that ridiculous interview Triple H did where he said most of us internet fans don’t have 1/100th of the information necessary to book the WWE product. What absolute garbage that is. Not only are you refusing to utilize talented writers to create compelling storylines, you’re feigning difficulty when you can’t actually be bothered TRYING to get it right.

So, instead of walking away (which I am very tempted to do) or giving up writing about WWE (also EXTREMELY tempting) I am going to fine-tune my attention, like using a zoom lens in my writing. Looking at the WWE product as a whole is vomit-inducing, so let’s instead focus on a place where a lot of the problems stem from: characters. I am going to sacrifice myself on the alter of all of WWE-fandom and produce (over the coming weeks) character charts for every main roster gimmick currently in the WWE. I don’t promise I’ll do the part-time people, but I will do all of the full-time people, men and women, singles and teams.

I’m going to call it Lady J’s Compendium of Knowledge. And it starts tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. And also, you’re welcome.

The Lady J Says